“No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”
Unconditional SurrenderUlysses S. Grant, before the final day of the Battle of Ft. Donelson
CS? Build right? Not rage? Good comps? Good rotations?
Nope. It’s the nexus. Destroying the nexus is the only thing you need to do to win games. I said it wasn’t a trick question.
Obviously, we both knew that already. The problem is that when the game begins (the clock reads 0:01), destroying the nexus is not possible. We can’t attack towers alone and minions won’t be there to take shots for us. At that moment, winning is literally impossible.
Also obviously, this eventually stops being the case, and winning becomes quite possible. But...when? When should we stop farming lanes (because nothing else is possible) and play for objectives (because they’re now possible)?.
The answer is really simple: as soon as practical. The reason is that this is a slippery-slope game, where a small lead early becomes a big lead late, and there’s never any incentive to be behind.
This is a guide about making that transition, and specifically, coming up with the ideas to try to turn a farming contest into a lead, and a lead into a win. But first, let’s see if you know how to play poker.
PHIL HELLMUTH’S GUIDE TO LEAGUE OF LEGENDS
Back in the early 2000s, poker had just caught on with television audiences, and the demand for it was high. The cardrooms I wasted my youth in were always full, and online play hadn’t been raided by the feds yet. The game was more popular than it had ever been.
Naturally, many pros sought to cash in on this, and one of ways they did was by releasing poker books. I’d gotten a hold of most of them, and was quite thrilled when my favorite player released one of his own. I bought it immediately. I shouldn’t have, it didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, this was just a quick cash grab. Except, for one little piece of advice: When you’ve folded and are out of a hand, try to guess your opponent’s hole cards using the information you were provided. Better yet, say them out loud. People will be quite impressed (and begin to fear you) if you can get it right!
Okay, let’s try it now:
You are playing on the Red side, as the mid laner. The clock reads 02:10. Your team watched the jungler entrances, and you are sure your jungle has not been, and is not being invaded. Your top laner has put a ward with vision on the enemy gromp, and it has not seen anyone. Every opponent has taken Flash, only one has Smite, and no one has taken Teleport.
Where are all five of your opponents?
Take a moment if you need to. But, come up with a complete answer...where are all five of the opponents, using the information given? Here’s a hint: don’t overthink it.
(insert Jeopardy! music here)
Answer: The top laner is in the top lane, the mid laner is in the mid lane, the adc and support are in the bottom lane. The jungler has killed his krugs and is currently fighting his red buff.
You may complain that I didn’t mention that 4 of them are on the minimap, but I said they didn’t invade.
Your ward shows that they’re not in their upper jungle (blue buff), so they’re at their red buff area. The only reasonable start for the jungler would be krugs, which spawned 15 secs ago. The enemy bottom lane can’t start krugs (the jungler is), they can’t take red from the jungler, and they can’t take raptors and still make it to lane on time and not get slaughtered by level 2 opponents. So, they’re bottom.
It’d take a very odd set of circumstances for a midlaner to start with a jungle camp here, and as we said, they didn’t invade. The mid is mid.
The top laner didn’t take teleport. He’s really hurting himself if he starts wolves here, and has to back and walk back to lane. So, he’s top.
Obviously, this wasn’t a very hard question. Seems kind of stupid too…”the top laner is top”? Come on now.
Well, you may feel I’ve just wasted your time. If you already have the game sense to determine where the opponents are without actually seeing them on the map, I may very well have. But, for the rest of you, this is what “game sense” and “map awareness” really mean. It means you have the means to see through the fog of war, and determine where the opponents are.
And, if you know where every opponent is...how do you lose? Seriously, how do you lose an exchange if you know where each of the opponents are? If you see there’s too many for your team, you back off. If you see that there’s not enough, you fight. If you see they’re all on one side of the map, take objectives on the other side of the map.
In our last scenario, what would we do with this information?
Well, their upper half of their jungle was open. Smiting the wolves would give us vision on that part of the jungle to invade at 3. We could outright steal their blue. We can take a quicker path through their jungle to attack the jungler at blue at 3. Our midlaner can safely lane on the top side of the lane at the moment, as we know the jungler’s bot and that’s what side he’ll come from.
I’ll always remember my last game to get out of Silver for the first time, in my sixth series. I didn’t do anything spectacular, and it was an hour-long war. But, we had a TF on our team, and he won it by pressing R for vision. Not to teleport with, just for the vision. We saw that one of their teammates was farming a jungle camp across the map for no reason while their other four were right around the corner. We went in on the 5v4, won, and I was Gold. Having TF’s free vision is nice, but it was another of our teammates that pinged to go in and led the engage. In other words, vision is the means, and the right decision is the end. I was quite fortunate that two of my teammates were able to put the puzzle together without me.
Although, if anybody asks, I’ll swear that I carried MYSELF to gold that season!.
So, maybe in the future you’ll see yourself spectating a game. When you do, only give yourself one side’s vision, and try to guess where the enemy is as the game progresses. When you do, take a peek and see if you’re right. Keep at this, and before long, you’ll be able to see the cards your opponents hold.
I have another thought experiment for you.
Is it possible to carry as a zero-damage support?
Those of you who know me know I play Janna, and can surmise how I feel about this. But regardless, is it possible to carry, as in your team would not have won without you, while doing no damage?
If you think the answer is “no”, I’d really like to hear your reasoning below. But, if your answer’s yes, I’m willing to bet that your answer included wards somehow. Am I right?
But, as we determined earlier, vision is the means. It doesn’t mean anything without the end. Specifically, this means that providing vision is not enough. You need to make a good decision.
But even then, that may not be enough. If you see the dragon’s wide open, what can you do if you ping it
and your teammates aren’t interested? Seems like those bastards care about themselves more than the team. It’s annoying, and it’s common in solo queue. So, if you have a bunch of antisocial misanthropes who would rather sit in the corner and farm while listening to My Chemical Romance, that’s one thing. Maybe you should have banned Nasus and Vayne. But, that’s usually not the case. They’re playing games to win and will often come for something that will benefit the team.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with doing other people’s thinking for them. Especially if you saw where the opponents are and know that a particular play will work. Tell them what to do. If you’re jungling and see an opportunity bot, ping your mid and try to get him to come. Instead of sending three and getting likely one kill, you can send four and get likely two kills and a tower. At the price of losing some farm mid, seems like a good deal to me! It’s not that hard, just say to your mid that if you ping for a gank bot, “come down for free kills and tower”. Mid laners love getting kills for free.
In other words, shotcalling IS carrying. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll carry this way than trying to turn in a 13/0 Vayne or Yasuo game. Work on your game sense, your decisionmaking, and finally, your communication. You can use the “spectating with half-vision” practice described above. Practice like this, combined with being a good teammate, is how turn your shitty teammates into good teammates.
Now, sometimes it won’t work. Some people will actually get offended when you tell them to stop farming and go do something that gets us closer to the nexus. Well, the good news is that you don’t need to win to every game to get where you want to be. Don’t take it personally when you see a League of Legends solo queue player who turns out to be an asshole. After all, wouldn’t it be more of a shock when he turns out to NOT be an asshole?
COPYING AND PASTING THE TITLE HERE IS LAZY GUIDE WRITING
Now, let’s get to the actual white meat. Below, I’m going to list various objectives you can take in the mid and late game, and ways to actually pull it off other than to walk towards it and hope a teammate does something.
As a caveat, be aware of how most people think. They want to farm because farming’s easy. They don’t want to go on deep jungle adventures, or dive, because it’s risky.
So, you can’t expect everything from your teammates, nor that they can see what you see. So, try not to ask them to do anything unreasonable. Then again, you’re better off asking them to follow a call and watching them ignore it then calling nothing and watching them act randomly. Well, at least until you run out of headache medication. On the other hand, why the hell are you playing League of Legends if you are prone to headaches? Have you ever turned team chat on, ever?
WHICH SAVING THROW DO I USE FOR DRAGON’S BREATH? IS IT PPD?
Let’s examine what getting the Dragon actually gives you:
- DRAGON'S MIGHT: +6% attack damage and ability power
- DRAGON'S WRATH: +15% damage to towers and buildings
- DRAGON'S FLIGHT: +5% movement speed
- DRAGON'S DOMINANCE: +15% damage to minions and monsters
- ASPECT OF THE DRAGON: Doubles all previous bonuses and your attacks burn for 150 true damage over 5 seconds. This stack only lasts 180 seconds or until death.
Other than that, there’s not much to write home about until you get to # 5. Extra tower damage is cute, but how often are you in a close tower battle where this would make the difference? That’d mean a close siege where the other team is trying to waveclear while you shoot the tower, but no one is engaging. It’s not that common. Typically, when most towers fall, it’s because they are open and they fall with one wave of minions and one champion’s autos. The tower damage doesn’t do it, "no defenders available" is what does it.
The movement speed is nice if your frontline doesn’t have any gapclosers (Nasus, Singed, Volibear, Mundo, etc.). Except, it’s still not going to get through a competent Janna, for example.
The most notable one is #4, the waveclear bonus. This will make it easier to outrotate the enemy, as you force them to run from tower to tower to clear waves as they approach. But, that’s #4. Meaning, it’ll be relatively late before you get it, and rotating is the only use it’d have. It’s not going to turn poor waveclearers like Vayne into decent waveclearers.
But hey, #5 is solid. It’s just so far away.
Before we get into the ”hows”, one final tip: be aware of who’s tanking and how. The dragon’s attack is a cone; hitting his target and whoever’s behind him. So, if multiple melee champions are fighting him, don’t stand on top of each other and all get hit by it. Come on now, act like you’ve played an MMO before and don’t stand in the damn fire.
This may be in the dragon section, but only because the dragon section is first., An Open Goal means there aren’t any enemies there to contest your objective, so you can take it for free. You’ll find this in every list.
Sometimes you can maneuver them. If your team draws a gank top and both the jungler and top laner attack your top, the dragon is yours if you can get there in time. They’ve got no smite to stop you, and at worst, their top can TP down, but their jungler can’t, so it’ll be a 4v4. If you got there first, with the smite, you will get it.
Kill or Pushout
This is the most common way to get an objective in solo queue. Someone, somewhere, will have made a play, and now your team tries to cash it in for an objective. At higher elos, your teammates will go straight to an objective, which may be this one. At lower elos, they’ll go to farm. This is one of the reasons why they’re low.
All the enemies may be alive and available, but you can still make a dragon play if you’ve got enough wards around. This typically means inside their jungle where they’d approach from, and you’d need to knock down any wards they may have on the dragon. Don’t get fooled into taking dragon while they take baron, though!
If you’ve got the champ and the potions for it, you may be able to just sneak it early. This play is fragile though, as one enemy showing up can really harm your level 3 dragon solo. You’ll have to be aware of whether or not the enemy team has warded the dragon early, and to ward yourself for protection.
Sell a tower
It’s possible that your opponents are pressuring a tower, and that means they won’t be there to contest your dragon play. Be warned, trading one tower for a dragon is a close call, but trading two almost certainly isn’t. Be aware of this and make sure you don’t find yourself in a base race that you don’t want to be in.
OF COURSE MEDIEVAL FANTASY SETTINGS HAVE LASER CANNONS
Now, let’s discuss the actual goal; getting to the nexus. To do that, you have to get towers. Let’s talk a bit about the towers themselves.
- Outer: 125g global + 150 divided locally
- Inner: 150g global + 100 divided locally
- Inhibitor: 175g global
- Nexus: 50g global
As it always is, if there’s no one to defend it, it can be taken. For example, if the laner is now backing, the tower is ripe for your team. Get there, and get it. If the other team’s not there and it does not appear they will get back in time (you have vision on them, or you’re reading the game well and know they’re not there), pick that gold up.
Kill or Pushout
If you happen to make a play and the tower's now ripe for the taking, take the tower. Don't spend time chasing, farming, or worse, backing before you have a chance to get your whole team paid. Specifically, you should be doing this every time. As soon as a fight is decided, immediately ask yourself what you can get for it. After all, you earned it!
Specifically, this means attacking a tower that is actively being defended, but without the intention of winning a fight.
What this will come down to, mainly, is a competition with two events: poking, and waveclear. If one side can land enough skillshots to make it obvious who wins in a fight, the siege is over. If not, one team can still win by waveclearing: the attacking team gets their minions into tower range and shoots the tower, while the defending team tries to clear minions so their tower doesn’t get distracted, and will shoot enemy champions first.
When deciding to siege, look at the teamcomps. Who has the advantage in poke and waveclear? If you’re up against an Anivia, Ziggs, Jayce, or Nidalee, I wish you the best of luck getting that tower down if they’re there to defend. If you have these champs yourself, get them blue buffs and force the action at a tower. You are very likely to win.
Furthermore, there’s another way to make sieging almost always work: the Baron buff. It turns minions into massive damage sponges, making clearing them extremely difficult. So, if you killed the worm, don’t waste too much time, get those purpled minions to a tower to take it!
We’re going to fight the enemy under their tower, and we’re going to take tower shots in the process. Because, we don’t care.
It is very common at lower ranked games for players to miss simple dives. Almost any 2v1 situation can be dived, along with many situations when you outnumber the enemy, as long as the following criteria are met:
- You are sure you will not be interfered with by another enemy champion.
- You have one champion with enough health, armor, or both to hold the turret aggro. (the “tank”)
- The tank gets the turret aggro and does not lose it during the dive.
- The rest of the team can get to the enemy champions and kill them while the tower is being tanked.
The answer is yes, and it’s Janna. She’s got the HP to hold aggro while Vi and Vayne have the speed to get in there and get the damage needed to collect. As long as she gets the first attack and doesn’t leave tower range. With Jinx dead, they can back off, and take the undefended tower. (As long as the other team doesn’t respond from other lanes/jungle soon, as they will all be low.)
Be advised that losing the tower aggro, or “spilling it”, is very dangerous. I know you want to stop getting shot by the tower, but if you leave before the dive is completed (and the next shot will not kill you), then the aggro will have to pass to one of your teammates, and it’s up to who hits first the instant you leave...too random to predict. This will force them to run before the kill is completed, ruining the play. So, if you’re holding the aggro, be aware of how close you are to dying and not to leave tower range until you absolutely must.
Ah, those poor, poor Tryndamere mains. I bet you can’t stand that your team’s taking the pressure you provide and pissing it away farming jungle camps while the enemy team sends 3-5 players to stop you (and loses no towers in exchange), huh? A lot of people don’t understand splitpushing. Or, what’s worse, they confuse it with “splitfarming”, which just means standing in a side lane and farming. Actual “splitpushing” means you’re a threat to the enemy’s towers. Here’s specifically what it means:
- You will take towers and inhibitors if you are left alone.
- One opponent will not stop you (you will either escape or win a duel), so your opponents will need to be shorthanded elsewhere if they send players to stop you.
- Your team will take advantage of this shorthanded-ness elsewhere, taking other objectives if they overcommit to you.
Sixth Man it
Put simply, this is splitpushing without the champion, using minions instead. If you have an understanding of minion waves, you know that you can set them to build up and push. Start deep in your end of the field, kill enemy casters, leave melees, and wait. About 60-90 seconds down the road, your wave will be 3 waves big and be threatening a tower. As I’m sure some of you have noticed, many people are loathe to let that wave go, and will show up to farm it.
Then and there, you know the enemy team is weak. Unless that side lane farmer is Shen or has TP, it’s not possible for them to participate in an upcoming fight. As a result, many barons and towers have been lost for no other reason than a carry showed themselves in the bot lane to farm.
Furthermore, you can always push with the big wave yourself. As long as you’re not up against a waveclear titan, those 15+ minions will be enough to get you that tower, and can even help in a dive if it comes to it. Even better, if the enemy team only sent one player to farm it, you can then kill them, take the tower, and very likely the next one before the death timer expires.
IF ORIANNA TAKES A STEROID, DOES HER BALL SHRINK?
Now, let’s talk about the buffs.
Understand that the buffs change in value throughout the game, and sometimes won’t have any value. In a Zed v. Yasuo mid matchup, neither of them will care about the blue buff. Carrying further, if there are no mana-based casters who spam abilities on the team, the blue buff is little more than some experience and gold that takes longer than a normal camp to get.
As for red, sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t. If Jinx thinks that red buff to kite with is going to save her from that Akali, she should think again. Buy a pink ward, noob.
But, sometimes the opposite is true. If you’ve got Jayce, Kog’Maw, or someone who spams a button on your team, you should take the time to get them blue. If there’s one on their team, try to deny theirs.
Lastly though, be aware that you can not only take the buff itself, you can also use it to get a pick. If you’ve got the timer, as described in this guide, you have a good shot of getting a pick and rolling it into an objective. Let’s be real here, later in the game, most teams will have a player taking the buff alone. You can break the game open then and there if you can get there at the right time.
Kill or Pushout
Second verse, same as the first... if no one can stop you, you can take it. Buffs are unique though, as to get vision on them, you’ll have to get multiple, very deep wards down. The only other way to be certain that a buff is clear is if the other team is showing many champions elsewhere, and you probably don’t want to let them get a tower or something for a buff.
Also, be aware of the likelihood that someone will come for their buff, where you can then score off them. We’ve all been in that solo queue game where everybody whines about the jungle being warded, but no one buys a pink or a sweeper. So, press tab, if they have those things, don’t expect much from the ambush. If not...go there, wait a few seconds, and enjoy your free kill, buff, and objective.
If you want to see a good jungler, look for one who can correctly guess when the enemy team is taking a buff with no vision. This play can crush the enemy jungler at levels 2 or 3, and still be significant enough later in the game. Make sure you’re not running yourself into a fight you can’t win, but if you can, get there and see if you can get both the buff and a kill.
As I’ve mentioned before, you have to weigh the value of the buff you’re trying to steal. If the other team needs blue to function (pokers, or a struggling mid that needs abilities to farm), the buff itself is worth the risk. Also, stealing the red early will make enemy ganks less effective. But, you’re probably better off looking at these plays as opportunities for kills first, and the buff second. After all, the buff hits hard, and it’ll always hit the person closest to it. No reason not to enlist the buff monster’s help to soften the target up for you.
I HOPE HE DROPS MY CLOUDSONG!
The new baron is a game winner. The gold boost is massive, but the minion enhancement buff makes advancing on the nexus extremely easy. The window you have to either end the game or get insurmountably ahead is so huge; once you get this buff, regroup and start pushing.
If only I could get these people to stop feeding the buff away after we’ve worked so hard for it, or worse, piss the buff away farming a side lane instead of attacking a tower.
As an aside, be aware of the following:
- BARON'S GAZE: Baron Nashor takes 50% reduced damage from champions he's damaged in the last 15 seconds.
- VORACIOUS CORROSION: Baron Nashor's basic attacks apply a stacking debuff that reduces the target's armor and magic resistance by 0.5, stacking up to 100 times for a total of 50 reduction.
- VOID CORRUPTION: Baron Nashor periodically deals magic damage and applies a stack of corrosion to a nearby champion with the least amount of corrosion stacks.
That having been said, there are plenty of chances where the enemy will concede the baron by virtue of showing themselves on vision. If you see that 9/1 Vayne show bot with 20 minions to farm...she just backstabbed her whole team for farm if you can get to the baron. That lead she has will look a lot less pretty after the enemy takes the baron, and drives to the inhibitor with it.
Secondly, you have an odd opportunity to baron right after you’ve lost a fight. If the other team is wounded and they take their time getting back to base to rest, you may have a shot if you all run straight to baron when you revive. They’ll either be in base or too low to contest, so if you’re quick and have the damage to burn it down, you now have the baron buff to make a comeback with.
Kill or Pushout
This is much risker, to leverage a baron with only one dead. Be aware of who it was who actually died. Also, you'll still need someone to tank and your damage dealers, and if they're super low, they can';t take it.
Sell the Dragon
Remember how we were talking earlier about the dragon buff? I made the point of showing that the dragon buffs were good, but not great. If it’s the middle of the game and neither team’s on 4 dragons, you’ll often be in a position when both are up. If the other team’s going to take the dragon, you have a clear shot to take baron. This trade is huge if it works, and now you’ll have plenty of opportunity to get further ahead while your minions are purple.
Sometimes, the old tricks are the best tricks. The baron appears for the first time at 20:00, and very often will he not be covered by vision when this happens. If you’ve got enough vision to see that the other team can’t contest, he’s there for you to take. Make sure you have a tank with an armor item to do it with.
Obviously, you aren’t able to get the baron in secret every time. As a result, there are many late game situations where one team is running to baron while the other team is already there.
If that’s the case, why start baron, only to have him help the other team? Instead, sweep a bush, kill them as they arrive, and then you can have the map at your mercy?
Again, you need to outward the other team and be aware of if and how they’re responding. But, if you can sneak your team into an unwarded bush just before the enemy arrives, you have a huge advantage in that fight. And, when you win it, it may be enough to win the game by itself.
Sixth man it
As mentioned earlier, in both the towers section and in this one with that Vayne, there’s no reason you can’t make your minions do your work for you. If the enemy minions get far along in the lane, you’ll probably farm them yourself. Most people take this opportunity to clear the wave and take the next. They’re near their own base and the creeps are there, why not?
Because, if take that wave, your minions wave will be small when it pushes out. It won’t be able to build, so it won’t provide any late pressure to farm it before it threatens a tower. Your opponents will appreciate having less pressure to deal with, while you got about 120g in return from farming that extra wave. Your choice.
Long guide, huh? Well, you know me. If I wrote anything short, it’s probably from an impostor. Report my account for having been hacked.
But, what I want to say again is that you have a lot of “means”, wards, pressure, and your teammates. What matters is the “end”. No matter what, you’re going to be on the field and you’ll have to decide for yourself how best to proceed. Let’s see if you’ve learned anything.
So, for fun, here’s a scenario:
You are playing as the jungler, on the red side. You are level 5, and are coming out of your base. Just as you begin to turn to a camp, a fight breaks out mid.
Your Katarina’s been giving the enemy Xerath fits, but the enemy jungler’s had enough, and ganks. Katarina opts to fight instead of running, shunpoing forward and attacking. She tried, but Xerath lands the stun and Katarina dies. Xerath is at 20%, and the jungler’s at around 40%. There’s a few more minions in the wave, so Xerath and his jungler are clearing it.
Your Gnar is playing their Riven to a standstill top, the wave is in the middle and both are nearly at full. Both teleports are available. In the bottom lane, your Thresh/Kog’Maw are struggling against Nami/Ashe. They’re pinned to their tower, but to their credit, their health bars are mostly intact, both are over 80%, but Nami and Ashe are in a good poke position with a wave and a half of minions to block hooks with. Finally, you’re two camps away from 6. Your wolves, gromp, and blue are all available.
Finally, as you see in the mid lane, the enemy jungler is at 50%, 75% mana, and doublebuffs. He walks down the lane towards his turret, then turns the corner to go to the southeast (in the path between raptors and mid bush), disappearing from vision. Just as this happens, Xerath uses the last of his mana (25% HP, he potted) to kill the last minion, and vision fades.
Both your flash and your smite are up.
Here are the questions:
- Where is Xerath going?
- Where is the jungler going?
- What is your play?